Booby Traps Series: Can teen moms beat the breastfeeding odds?

This is the 31st post in a series on Booby Traps™, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

For the last few weeks I’ve been writing about Booby Traps™ related to culture and race.  One of you left a comment asking that I write about similar barriers teen and young moms face, particularly with respect to low expectations among health care providers who work with pregnant and new moms.

It is true that young moms breastfeed at lower rates than older moms. CDC data from 2007 births show that 60% of moms younger than 20 initiate breastfeeding, compared to 79% of moms over 30.  And duration rates differ even more by age:  by 6 months 22% of mothers over 20 are still breastfeeding, but 51% of mothers over 30 are still going.

But is there any evidence that providers’ attitudes toward young moms might undermine their breastfeeding success?  One study of 150 nurses at three hospitals and health clinics did find that “some of the nurses… indicated that they were skeptical about young mothers’ potential for success with breastfeeding because of immaturity and lack of commitment.”  More research is needed on this topic, but this study confirms what I’ve heard anecdotaly from many moms.

I’m very pleased to share a guest post on this topic from Amy, a young mom from Massachusetts, which illustrates the power of good support.  Since having her baby, Amy has become a WIC breastfeeding peer counselor, and is studying biology as a community college transfer student.  She hopes to work in healthcare when she graduates.  Enjoy!

I was 19 years old when I found out I was pregnant.  I began going to my prenatal appointments as soon as I found out.  At my first appointment they had asked me how I had planned to feed the baby. I knew that the right answer was breastfeeding…however not much thought went into my answer.

I started thinking more about the topic. As my due date got closer, I got a packet of information from my OB/GYN listing all the prenatal classes they offered. Interested in getting more information, I signed up for the Breastfeeding Basics class.

I stepped into the Breastfeeding Basics class feeling completely out of place. There were a few other women in the class, all with their husbands. They already looked like mothers, I never felt younger. The class went well, I got great information and I really enjoyed the instructor.

There was one thing the instructor said that really connected with me. At the end of class she said “It is always the people you don’t expect to stick with breastfeeding that do.” I knew I was the one she was referring too. I knew when I left that class I was the one who was going to stick with it. The information was obviously wonderful but it was the support I felt from my instructor knowing that I could succeed that made the largest impact.

When my daughter was born it was in a hectic time in my life. I was breastfeeding all day and all night. My boyfriend and I were in the middle of ending our relationship so I was mostly alone feeding my new little girl.

I went for her two month check up at her pediatrician’s, and found out that she was gaining weight beautifully. Her pediatrician asked me “How old are you again?” and I told her I’d just turned 20. She replied “I always knew your age doesn’t matter when it comes to being a mother. You are doing an amazing job.” I wanted to cry. The recognition kept me motivated.

I am still breastfeeding and my daughter is now two years old!  I give great credit to the women who supported me. You never know how the littlest comment, good or bad, will stay with people. People who see young moms should be sensitive. No matter what the age they can successfully breastfeed as long as there is no one who makes them believe otherwise.

Did you breastfeed as a teen or young mom?  How did your providers talk with you about breastfeeding?  Did their expectations – high or low – have an impact on your breastfeeding intentions or experience?

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31 Comments | Last revised on 02/15/2012

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